Amy Coney Barrett won't say if presidents should commit to a peaceful transfer of power and if they can pardon themselves

  • Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, declined to say whether all presidents should commit to a peaceful transfer of power during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday. 
  • Barrett also would not comment on whether a president can pardon themself for crimes against the US. 
  • Trump has refused to commit to a peaceful transition if he loses the election, and in the past said he has the "absolute right" to pardon himself.
  • "To the extent that this is a political controversy right now, as a judge I want to stay out of it, and I don't want to express a view," Barrett told Democratic Sen. Cory Booker. 
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Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Tuesday declined to explicitly state whether presidents should commit to a peaceful transfer of power or comment on whether a president can pardon themself. 

Democratic Sen. Cory Booker asked Barrett during her confirmation hearing if presidents should unequivocally commit to a peaceful transition.  

"That seems to me to be pulling me into the question of whether the president has said he would not leave office. To the extent that this is a political controversy right now, as a judge I want to stay out of it, and I don't want to express a view," Barrett replied. 

As Booker continued to press Barrett on the matter, she later said, "One of the beauties of America from the beginning of the republic is that we have had peaceful transfers of power and that disappointed voters have accepted the new leaders that come into office … That's not true in every country. I think it is part of the genius of our Constitution and the good faith and goodwill of the American people that we haven't had the situations that have arisen in so many other countries where those issues have been present."

President Donald Trump, who in September nominated Barrett to the highest court in the land, has refused to commit to peacefully accepting the results of the 2020 election. Trump has engaged in an unprecedented disinformation campaign throughout the election cycle, baselessly claiming that voting by mail results in fraud and that the election is "rigged" against him. 

During Tuesday's confirmation hearing, Barrett also declined to answer Booker when asked whether a president can pardon themself for any crimes they commit.

"In keeping with my obligation not to give hints, previews or forecasts of how I would resolve the case, that's not one I can answer," Barrett replied, citing the so-called "Ginsburg rule." The Supreme Court nominee said it was a constitutional question, not a legal one, in explaining her reasoning. 

Amid the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference in June 2018, Trump tweeted that he had the "absolute right" to pardon himself. Last July, Mueller testified before the House Judiciary Committee and suggested that Trump could be charged with obstruction of justice once he leaves office.

Trump was impeached in December 2019 for obstruction of Congress and abuse of power, but the GOP-controlled Senate acquitted him in February. His impeachment was in relation to a scandal with Ukraine and his efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, as well as a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine — not the Kremlin — interfered in the 2016 election. 

The president has also faced consistent scrutiny over his financial dealings, particularly over his refusal to release his tax returns, and the Manhattan district attorney's office recently stated it may have grounds to investigate Trump and his businesses for tax fraud.

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